University of Washington: Struggling with Ethics 101

October 18, 2021

Like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, some professionals at these esteemed institutions are struggling with Ethics 101. A typical syllabus includes such questions as these from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Introduction to Ethics course:

  • What theoretical principles guide our moral behavior?
  • What makes an action right or wrong?
  • What factors (theoretical and practical) ground moral disputes?
  • Is there hope that we will resolve moral disputes?

The syllabus includes this statement:

If you commit any acts of academic dishonesty (such as plagiarism on written work or cheating on an exam) you will earn a zero for that work (and possibly other disciplinary actions).

Well, this is a basic class. How well did the University of Washington do? (We already know that MIT accepted some Jeffrey Epstein goodness and participated in the digital hair shirt ritual.)

Navigate to “University of Washington Settles DOJ Claims of Grant Fraud.” You will learn that one of those who appears to have flunked Introduction to Ethics engaged in some search engine optimization. I learned from the article:

The University of Washington has agreed to pay more than $800,000 to settle Justice Department allegations that a professor submitted false documentation relating to a highly competitive grant. The grant documents were submitted to the National Science Foundation by Mehmet Sarikaya, a professor in the university’s Materials Science and Engineering Department…

Keep in mind that some academics engage in citation exchanges and other crafty techniques to burnish their reputation as big time thinkers.

If the Department of Justice is correct, the get out of jail card cost the university providing Amazon-type and Google-type graduates a mere $800,000.

A PR-savvy university professional is quoted as saying“The UW takes very seriously the responsibility of stewarding public funding of scientific research,” university spokesman Victor Balta said in an email. “We are grateful this issue was brought to light and pleased to have it resolved.”

Abso-fricking-lutely. “Grateful.”

The issue is one that St. Thomas Aquinas might have enjoyed pondering. Why fool around with Aristotelian ethics when one can do what’s necessary to be a winner. The text of these thoughts might be called Macho invento and authored by a group of recent University of Washington graduates who volunteer their time to advance ethical thought.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2021

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